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The Fighter (2010)

"Before viewing" talks don't have spoilers, but since there's no "After viewing" talk for this one, comments may have spoilers. More»» by Randy Heffner

Is the film worth your time?

While it’s true that The Fighter tells a familiar sounding story — boxer overcomes odds — still it finds important underexplored territory. Mixing scenes of trust, betrayal, family pressure, family pride, manipulation, forgiveness, fear, failure, and boxing technique, the film portrays a multi-faceted, multi-character struggle for life and success. So, rather than the stereotypical “overcoming odds” boxing film, which tends to focus on personal fortitude and the formidable opponent, the title character in The Fighter confronts trickier difficulties with the people around him — people who support him and say they have his best boxing interests in mind.

The film’s angle opens up a different set of questions: When we give and expect loyalty in return, how honest was the gift? What is behind our tendency to use guilt-based motivation and manipulation of others? If you’re the target of manipulation, how can you react in love? When we have a life decision to make, how can we sort through the pressures of family and history and love to know whom to trust? What makes a true and good comeback? The film richly explores such questions, strengthened by a varied mix of true-to-life plot elements that keep us from flattening it down to a simple boxing story.

The filmcraft in The Fighter is good all around, especially in its intermixed telling of multiple stories. The single best bit is Christian Bale’s exceptional performance as the older brother, but all the acting is good. The film spends more time on characters than boxing, which is good — and lends more power to the well-done boxing sequences. It’s very well worth the time spent. Being not so much about boxing, but rather about family relations, it’s worth it even if you’re not in for the fights. But then, if you just can’t (or don’t want to) see the fights, you might choose another film instead.

Micky Ward has always looked up to his older half-brother, Dicky Eklund, even now that Dicky’s glory days are past. Their mother and boxing manager, Alice, raised them both to box. Micky’s been on a losing streak of late, trying to get back on track. He wants and respects his brother’s help, but Dicky is unreliable and strung out on crack. It seems that Alice has also lost sight of what’s important. Micky finds a bit of solid ground in a new girlfriend, Charlene, but her presence sets off sparks with the family, especially Alice. Micky — along with everyone else — is forced to navigate these tensions as he works to recover his footing. Running time: 115 min.

It’s boxing, so there is violence and blood in the fights and beyond. Strong language is pervasive. Drugs and alcohol are strong elements, along with a theme of the danger of crack cocaine. Sexuality is strong at points and, although strictly speaking there is no nudity, the film comes close it (sometimes without particular artistic need).

  • Director: David O. Russell
  • Screenplay: Scott Silver, Paul Tamasy, and Eric Johnson based on story by Paul Tamasy, Eric Johnson, and Keith Dorrington
  • Leads: Mark Wahlberg, Christian Bale, Amy Adams, Melissa Leo, Mickey O’Keefe, Jack McGee
  • Cinematography: Hoyte Van Hoytema
  • Music: Michael Brook

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